Thursday, December 29, 2011

Slave to the Needle -- Requiem for a Dream

Since I was a big fan of the film version of the ultra-depressing Requiem for a Dream, one could only imagine my delight when I found a paperback copy of Playboy Press' printing of the book.  I felt like a junkie scoring a bundle ... but I refrained from reading it.  Why?  Time.  Mood.  A number of other factors.  That said, I'm reading it now (almost done with it actually), and I have to say that as satisfying as it is (even more than the movie), it is also a bit frustrating.

As much as I support artistic decisions, I like the traditional structure of a novel.  Paragraphs.  Quotation marks.  Apostrophes.  Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel pretty much leaves those things at the wayside.  Paragraphs  are rare (some paragraphs go on for pages).  I don't think I've come across a single quotation mark (and I only have a few pages to go).  And apostrophes?  More often than not, Selby/ll do something like that.  It is all a bit maddening, but I imagine that fits in with the story.  The editor in me hates it.  The English teacher inside me died after ten pages, and the reader in me is thankful to go along for the ride, but would really like a visual break now and then.

There are people who have seen me reading this and have said, "I will never watch that movie again."  I ask if they've read the book and they really have no desire to do so.  I can't imagine why they ever watched the movie in the first place, but I leave them be.  If you don't know the depths of depression and depravity, you also can't know the heights of joy.  Their loss.

Selby tapped into magic with this book.  It's a dark, overwhelming magic, but it is magic nonetheless.  The film realized much of it, but as usual, the source material is miles above what made it to screen.  And if you were brave enough to sit through the film, the novel will actually be a little easier to tolerate ... at which point you'll get more from the story.  It's not entertaining, but it's not meant to be.  It's a descent, and that's something people need to do a little more.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for my copy of the book.  If you click on the link, I may earn a commission.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rampant Sex and Drug Use -- Why the Movies Aren't Like They Used to Be

If there's one thing I love more than exploitation movies, it's books about them.  Sleazoid Express is one of those that is about those movies as much as it is about the experience of watching them in New York City's Times Square ... before it got all gussied up for the dance.  Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford have penned a love letter to a bygone era, a time where going to the movies meant taking your life in your hands.  Rampant sex with other movie goers and prostitutes, robberies, drug use, criminals fleeing the police.  I wish the movies were that fun now.  (And let's face it, if you are dumb enough to see something like Transformers you need to get robbed again.)

Fans of exploitation films may be a bit upset over the actual film coverage.  Divided into sections, the book only gives an overview of some the examples from each genre.  One or two movies in each is delved into in detail, and there is much hate doled out for some of the shining examples of exploitation (such as Cannibal Holocaust).  What is left, however, are some fascinating tales of the theatres and the people who made them and starred in them.  Other books may have covered the latter, but few have actually covered the theatres, delving into urine-soaked bathrooms where people can be found shooting up; or even going into the mazes that sometimes connected one theatre to another, the hallways of which became predator playgrounds with woe being visited upon anyone stupid enough to make their way through them too slowly.

If anything, Sleazoid Express is a historical look at a place and era that cannot be replicated in any kind of meaningful scale.  Some may try, but the Times Square of that time period was shaped by the people around it, who were shaped by the events they lived through.  The films were just as dangerous, products of addled minds and the belief that doors to cinema were wide open.  It was a time where anything could happen in film ... and did.  We have lost that.  Brilliantly psychotic filmmakers are now relegated to DVDs, which can be viewed in the safety of one's home.  Hardcore porn no longer plays en masse in the "bad" section of town.  Double features are as rare as original ideas.  Reading the book doesn't fill me with nostalgia.  It fills me with sadness.  That environment will never exist again, and I can't help but think that not only is current cinema all the worst for it, but so is the future of film. 

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this book, and if you click on the link to order it I may earn a commission.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Unleashing the Beast

Nothing Men is selling.  Not gangbusters.  Not quit my job and buy a mansion.  But selling enough to get me a royalty check that I can be proud of cashing.  It's taken promotion and some word of mouth, and now that Halloween is over it will take more of that, but I'm fine doing it.  I've heard from a few readers either on my blogs or through an e-mail.  One friend who bought it, however, had a complaint:  It is too violent.

I'm used to complaints about this book.  The first publisher whom I sent it to dismissed it because the ending was "too depressing."  My test reading group was generally positive, but there were a few who couldn't finish it because they either "knew bad things were going to happen," or it was "just too tense."  Regardless, I didn't change anything based on those comments.  It's a horror story of a certain nature.  Certain things had to happen.  If I thought the complaints had been valid, I would've made changes.  However, when one of the test reading group said it read like "one of those movies [exploitation] from the '70s or '80s where you knew everyone was going to die," I knew I had hit the nail on the head.  Home run.  Perfect game.  That was exactly what I was going for.  This is my exploitation novel.

My friend, the one who thought it was too violent, said, "I know you can think of some pretty crazy things, but the stuff in your book bothered me.  I don't think I'll be reading anything other horror stories you write.  I don't like when you unleash your beast."  Out of morbid curiosity I asked what he thought of the novel's ending.

"I didn't make it that far.  I stopped at that part with the boy in the woods.  I was done."

Incidentally, that is where two members of the test reading group stopped as well.  It was something about that scene that really got under their skin.  It's a scene I really enjoyed writing.  It is nasty.  There are threats of sexual violence.  Two nasty men.  One teen boy.  A ball gag.  A meat hook on a chain.  A survival knife.  Urine.  The combination of things and the situation (and dialog, I learned) upset at least three readers I knew about, and I wondered about that.  Two of them I knew for a fact read horror. Why was mine different?  I asked my friend, who was hesitant to talk about it.

He told me, with much hesitation, that the scene bothered him so much because it felt gleefully sadistic (wait until he finds out about the manuscript I'm working on now), and the fact that he knew me made it even worse.  "I can't believe I know someone who would come up with something like that."

That may be what bothered the others, too.  People who know me know I come up with some pretty horrific things, but I guess putting those things into a story makes them more "real."  Oddly enough, that scene in the novel is where I think the tone changed, where it hit its stride and where I first really "unleashed the beast."  It is gleefully sadistic, and it should be.  Those people who stopped reading there didn't upset me.  In fact, it made me feel like I was doing my job right.  I wanted them to finish the story. What writer doesn't?  But the fact that I wrote something disturbing that it caused them to stop reading and made them promise a cold, hard refusal to ever finish it is something I take pride in.  I've never stopped reading a horror story because it was too scary, but I've loved those moments where I've felt hesitant to go on, where I've felt nothing but dread.  And now I've created that moment for others.

I wish those readers who stopped reading would've finished the story.  Again, what writer doesn't want that?  But I know they were right to stop.  If that scene bothered them, the rest of the story would thoroughly ruin their day.  It doesn't get nicer.  The sadism the friend pointed out doesn't lessen.  The violence only gets worse.  They were right in putting it aside to never revisit again.  But damn if it wouldn't have been nice to send them home in tears ...

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Yes, clicking on a link will possibly cause me to earn a commission and royalties.  So what?

Friday, November 4, 2011

End Times -- The Death of the Fourth Estate

I woke up this morning at exactly 4:12.  My stomach was threatening to expel its contents in the most unpleasant of ways.  It was the same queasy, nauseous feeling I got when I read End Times -- The Death of the Fourth Estate.

The team-up of AK Press and CounterPunch always produces great results.  This 2007 book, which I got as part of the Friends of AK Press plan, is no different.  Within its several hundred pages it lays out an argument that the Fourth Estate (the news media) is dying and it is doing so primarily at its own hands.  Everything from the Israel lobby (and its lack of coverage) to the media's role in war to journalists being killed by the U.S. military and the media's blind eye to this is covered in fascinating detail.  For a media junkie such as myself, this is gold.

Yes, people like Rupert Murdoch are hung out to try, but lest you think this is merely some liberal whining about the conservative media, The New York Times and Hunter S. Thompson are also raked through the coals.  CNN is damned in the particularly disturbing essay titled "The Military & CNN."  Once you read this book, your view of media will either be given credence or tainted forever.

I would write more.  Believe me, I could.  But, like the media covered in this book, I feel like I'm dying.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I paid for this book through the Friends of AK Press program.  If the FTC doesn't know what the hell that is, its employees can look it up.  I'm sure they are familiar with AK Press at least.  As for the links, click on them and I may earn a commission.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Makes Men Tick -- A Highly Dated and Insulting Guide to Understanding Your Man

Women, let's face it: You don't really understand your man, do you?  You think you do.  You think he likes the hamburgers you make.  You think he likes your cute little nickname for his penis ("Hello, Mr. Jones!").  You think he likes that purple thing you wear to bed. 

You are dead wrong!

As luck would have it, Aldus Books London put out this nifty hardcover guide in 1972 to help ladies around the world figure out their men.  Did it work?  Just look at the cover.  It had to work.

Author Portia Beers (her last name is a siren call to the frat boy in your man), tells ladies that men can bet "tough-minded and tender-hearted, foolish and wise, stubborn and impulsive, thoughtless and considerate -- they can be maddening and they can be marvelous."  Men, this looks good for us.  Apparently we can be everything. 

Anything you can do, I can do better ...
After this puzzling introduction there is a "picture essay" on "The Male Animal."  This is great.  A few of the examples of the male animal you will find: the caveman, a man beating a woman, Casanova, Mick Jagger, football players, homosexuals, and Steve McQueen.  Sprinkled throughout the book are more fascinating '70s-era photos of nude men holding naked babies, men in dapper suits with a line of subservient women, men in pink aprons holding cakes.  One thing you get from looking at all these manly photographs is how bad haircuts were in the '70s.  Seriously.  I grew up in the '70s.  It sucked.  The hairstyles should not have been preserved in a book that women from now until the end of time will be referring to in order to understand their sperm maker.

The advice the book shills out is, as to be expected, scientific and rational.  In a section about why men marry, Beers has this to say, "While a single woman over 40 may be given up as a hopeless case, a single man of the same age is still considered prime marriage material, not only by his family and married friends, but also by single women as young as half his age."  It's statements like this that make you wonder for which sex the book was written.  "[W]omen usually feel safe, more secure, with a man who has everything under control."  And ladies, if you want to get married, just wait.  Eventually, they have to come to you.  Why?  You're ugly.  "[T]he competition for attractive girls is fierce among single men, and keeping pace with every other unmarried Tom, Dick and Harry can make it difficult to keep up with an increasing work load, especially as a man gets older."  So once he tires of chasing attractive women, he can settle for you.  Oh, Ms. Beers (I'm assuming she was single then based on the advice in this book), thank you for giving those forty-one-year-old spinsters hope.

When your old and do get that tired man, Beers has some great advice as to what makes a wife.  "Ideally, an exciting sexual partner, an expert cook and housekeeper, a charming hostess, a patient mother, and above all, a loving and devoted companion."  Need I say more?  Yes.

If only she wouldn't ask for sexual bliss...
Women are also painted as if they are sitting on the bench at the Salem Witch Trials.  "Although wives often direct all kinds of accusations at their husbands about sexual orgies and whatnot at their conventions, these meetings are less marked by depravity then they are by the escapades and tomfoolery of grown men released for a while from the pressures of supporting a family, paying the mortgage, and meeting their wives' demands for everything from new appliances to sexual bliss."  So, ladies, continue to demand that new toaster and G Spot orgasm.  Yes, it will drive your man to tomfoolery and escapades, but at least he won't be involved in some depraved orgy.  Got it?  His tomfoolery (which you have mistaken for a bukkake party) is your fault.  Duh.

I could continue, but why bother.  It's obvious this book is less about what makes men tick and more about women feeling bad about themselves and excusing men for some truly assinine behavior.  I wonder how many women read this and thought, "Wow, this really makes sense.  This advice hits home.  I'm gonna please the holy Hell out of my man so he doesn't want tomfoolery and I can still get those appliances!"  I understand it was 1972, a time when everyone was trying to get in touch with everything (except, apparently, barbers).  Self-help books were the rage, the new opiate of the Me Generation.  They were bought by the boatload by people who had so little understanding of themselves that they turned to books that had even less understanding then they did.

A book on understanding men wouldn't be complete without a section on pedophilia.
So how did I get this book?  Well, that's a funny story, actually.  I got it at work.  There are a few of us who find wildly strange books and then give them to each other, usually in secret.  This ended up in my mailbox.  No note.  No knowing glance from a co-worker who would be waiting for my reaction.  What?  Did you think I bought it?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stealing the Books of Blood

As a teen I read a lot of horror fiction.  A good part of my library
My copy of this book looks the same ... except
without the "By the author of ..."
was the works of Stephen King.  I read everything I could get my hands on, including interviews.  One name that kept popping up whenever King was asked about forthcoming writers worth reading was Clive Barker.  He was the future of horror.  I knew I had to keep an eye out for this Barker character.

It was almost the summer of 1986.  I was 15.  I had a job at a campground resort.  I sold fun.  We had a small campground store that had a paperback rack.  It was mostly Danielle Steel garbage and Mary Higgins Clark.  (I've tried reading one of Clark's books.  Garbage of the worst sort.)  Every once in a while you'd find a V.C. Andrews book, which drove all the intellectual teen girls wild.  But then, out of the blue, was one copy of the first volume in Clive Barker's Books of Blood.  Sweet mother of horror fiction.  There it was.  Taunting me.  A date stamp was at the top of the book.  May 26 1986.  The cheesy cover alluded to greater things inside.

I opened the book.  "The Midnight Meat Train."  "Pig Blood Blues."  These were story titles I could get behind.  "Sex, Death and Starshine" sounded like crap, but that didn't matter.  Here was the book I had wanted for far too long.  One problem.  It was $2.95.  A meager sum.  (Yes, paperbacks used to be under three bucks.)  I wasn't getting paid for a few days, however, and I was broke.  We had one copy.  Cue the dramatic music.

I figured I would be safe if I left it on the rack.  Books rarely sold, and when they did they were usually to those intellectual teen girls oh-so-sexy in their shorts as they lounged around the pool reading and inspiring teen erections.  (Really, what didn't inspire those?)  Or they sold to mothers who needed a break from the kids, and that break could be found in the steamy hetero world of Steel.

I couldn't risk it, though.  If some kid like me came in with his family, he would see it and snap it right up.  I could hide it behind another book ... one unlikely to sell quickly.  That had worked well for me in the past at my job and at various stores.  It wasn't foolproof, though.  All it took was someone pawning through the titles and nabbing it or seeing it was out of place and correcting that.  It could also be discovered by someone who, like me, was hip to the hiding trick.

That left me with one option.  Theft. 

I've done my share of shoplifting in my time.  These days I think the only thing really worth stealing is art.  I find it to be the ultimate compliment.  In my teen years, though, anything was fair game.  I did think about whether or not anything I took was worth the risk, however.  This Barker book caused me some great mental pains.

Stealing a book was almost unforgivable.  I would be denying someone else the right to read it.  I'd be doing the same thing if I bought it, but by stealing it I would be altering the social agreement that comes with capitalism.  If you have the means, you pay for it.  Otherwise you do without.  It wasn't food, and I wasn't starving.  It was a book, a book I could go to any local bookstore and find once I got my pay check.  I had wanted this for so long, though, that common sense and decency was taking a backseat to pure, unadulterated greed.  I wanted it.  I wanted it now.  And I didn't give a crap that I didn't have the cash.

"Steal me," the mask on the cover whispered in my mind.  "Take me home.  Caress me.  Smell my pages."

So I took it.  I read it.  I enjoyed it.  I have it to this day.  Admirable?  No.  Understandable?  Of course.  It was a moment of weakness mixed with fear.  It's the same feelings that put millions of people in debt with credit card companies. 

At least I bought the other volumes. 

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

The History of Headbanging

Let him who have understanding reckon the number of the Beast ... If you recognize that, you're a metalhead.  My teen years were filled with the stuff.  I still enjoy it (Iron Maiden never gets old).  That being said, I had to grab Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal when I saw it at Borders back when the place wasn't an empty shell reeking of bad coffee and despair.  Ian Christie, the author, gave his book a bold title, especially considering the "complete" history is done in less than 400 pages.  A true metalhead will know something is going to be missed.

To Christie's credit, the book tries to be thorough, and doesn't do a horrible job of it.  I discovered some things I didn't know, and I realized there was stuff missing.  (The book gives more than a passing nod to the Misfits, but no mention is made of Kryst the Conqueror.  I'm sure anyone can make this complaint about any band, however, as it would be impossible to cover everything.)  I doubt any metalhead could truly complain about that, though, unless he or she hated Metallica.  (The book covers a lot of Metallica.)

As an overview, Christie does a fine job of hitting all the major points in heavy metal history.  He doesn't shy away from the dark stuff, either, unlike Chuck Klosterman who revels in the safety of hard rock and heavy metal.  Christie gets that there is a portion of this music that is truly dangerous and subversive.  He understands it.  He writes about it.  When writing about Mayhem and the infamy around that band, he doesn't sensationalize it or rally against it.  He presents it in a matter-of-fact format that fits with the rest of his book.  It is just another section of heavy metal history.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Christie's book is, as a quote from Maxim on its back cover reads, "a must for all fans."  There is really no reason not to recommend it. Well, unless you only like pop music.  In that case, you may want to read something else.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book with hard-earned U.S. cash.  If you click on a link this, you may end up putting some less-than-hard-earned U.S. cash in my coffers.  Filthy lucre.

Suck on This, Politicians!

 Paladin Press is a favorite of mine.  Yes, much of its output verges on paranoia, but among all the books on how to murder someone (and easily get away with it!) are some real gems.  Henceforth I present Politics & Dirty Tricks: A Guide to Screwing Up the System by V.R. Farb and published way back in 1995.  Its lessons remain pertinent today, and you can apply them to your every day life, such as revenge against a boss or a cop who has done you wrong.  Revenge isn't only fun; it's healthy!

The book, which I received to review back when it was first published and have held onto it ever since, is a mere 90 pages.  Those 90 pages plant some great seeds, though.  Not much of it was new to me, but the average reader is going to put it down and immediately figure out about eight things they can do to the person they want to act as karma on.  Political sabotage just ain't for Republicans anymore.

Tampering with schedules, causing IRS stings and turning press conferences upside down are all covered within this book's pages, as well as actual tales of what happened when these methods were used.  Some worked.  Some backfired.  There are lessons to be learned from both, however.  And while all of it is geared toward ruining a politican (something that seems incredibly easy to do), the astute student can easily see how to manipulate these ideas in order to turn them against one's own enemies.  After all, upon reading about how you can cause a political campaign to lose thousands of dollars through very little effort, it takes but a second to turn those same strategies against your average joe.

Granted, a lot of the things covered in this book are ... illegal.  Despite the illegality, it's extremely hard to get caught doing a lot of this stuff.  Simple fact, plain and true.  The bigger something is, the harder it is to trace the monkeywrench that derailed it.  And then there's the fact that the things in here that aren't illegal are still highly effective.

Election season is coming.  There are stealth candidates doing their usual run to take over school boards and city councils.  If you don't like them, you can do more than vote against them.  You can send them back to the rock they came out from under.  It's easy, fun, and usually fairly affordable.  Have fun with it.  Make it a family project.  Just don't forget, though, that what can be used against your enemy politician can also be used against the candidate you like.  If you're like me, however, you'll realize they're usually different piles of the same shit, so what is good for the goose is definitely good for the gander.  Happy subverting!

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Yep, I got this book to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission, and who knows?  Maybe you'll get on a list, too.

Lumley Tackles Lovecraft!

I, like about eight million other people, was introduced to writer Brian Lumley through his Necroscope book.  I have fond memories of that book.  I had just come out to California to make my home, and that is the book I read while waiting to fall asleep in a sleazy motel room.  I picked up the rest of the books as they came out.  I also kept an eye out for the author's other works.  Imagine my surprise a few years ago when I found The Burrowers Beneath, which is Lumley mucking around in the world H.P. Lovecraft, a favorite of mine, created.    

DAW Books published this in 1974, the year Carrie came out and the year Rubik's cube was invented.  West Germany was hosting the World Cup, and a young (presumably) man name Ward D. Griffiths bought, at a mere .95 cents, #91 in DAW Books SF series.  I assume Griffiths was the original purchaser of my copy of the book, as his name is scrawled on the inside in ink.  The signature is in trembling cursive, indicating that the signee was either old or had just graduated from block letters.  When he would've turned the page he would have found himself greeted with a slightly cartoon-like drawing of Cthulhu acting as a bookend.
I have no idea of what Griffiths thought of the book, or even if he finished it.  Lovecraft's original fiction is terrifying stuff, and the writers who dabble in his universe are often equally unnerving.  He may have made it to the chapter titled "Cement Surroundings" and stopped when he read, "What of the indescribable droning chant which I often heard issuing from Sir Amery's room in the dead of night?"  Lumley, like the man who influenced this book, knew that when writing in Lovecraft's world it is the unknown and unseen that is the most frightening.  Like many of the other writers who have fashioned similar works, Lumley seems to delight in hinting at the things behind closed doors (or in this case, under the earth).  It works, despite the bombastic tagline on the book's cover ("The Earth's original rulers are waking!").

It's been a few years since I've read the book.  As someone who enjoys Lovecraft and the writers inspired by him, I can say with certainity that Lumley's book will be kept on my shelf to pass down to my daughter once the Elder Gods come to eat my soul.  I don't know if she'll find the novel as gripping as I did, but there are enough of my personality traits in her that I somehow can't help but think that at some point in her life she is going to turn to Lovecraft and those stories inspired by his imagination and maybe shudder a bit more than usual on some rainy, windy night, much like I envision Griffiths, he of the trembling hand. 

I have quite a few Lovecraft books in my collection, and I have several others inspired by him.  The Burrowers Beneath is one of the ones that stays fairly true to the horror legend.  It feels just as timeless as Lovecraft's work, and a hundred years from now when people are still studying and discussing the master, Lumley's book will come up in conversation.  Unearthly things never seem to die, do they?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book and was not given a review copy.  If you feel bold enough to click on a link, I may earn a commission.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Big Rape And My Depressing End

As I watch the sales for Nothing Men slowly creep up (very slowly), I can't help but think back to the first publisher who got the manuscript.  He turned it down because the end was "too depressing." Of course it is.  It's supposed to be.  It's not a Disney story.  What does that have to do with 1953's The Big Rape?  Well, I'm curious as to how much the times have changed when a horror novel with a depressing is rejected, yet a publisher in the early '50s thought it made perfect business sense to publish a book about a woman who trades her "passion for revenge" which just happened to be called The Big Rape.  That's the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

I have never read James Wakefield Burke's book.  It could be about rapeseed farmers for all I know.  Somehow, judging by the booze swiggin' men in the background and the half-open shirt of the woman in the foreground, I doubt it.  Were the 1950s more tolerant than the modern era?  Were books like this one commonplace on the shelves and spinner racks?  Again, negative on both.  I do think, however, publishers took more chances.

To think that a horror story such as the one I wrote should have anything but a depressing ending says to me that the publisher had no knowledge of or appreciation for what I was going for with the manuscript.  His idea of horror was probably limited to slasher films (if that) and teen vampires.  What I wrote was more along lines of Jack Ketchum, and there is an audience for that.  Yes, what I wrote may be difficult to sit through at times, but it should be.  Knowing that, I kind of wonder how the story was handled in Burke's work.  Was it graphic and violent?  Or were the rape scenes (if any) kind of glossed over, as was standard for that time period?

In the end, I'm glad that publisher told me my conclusion was too depressing.  I had gone back and forth between two different endings (both radically different), and I went with the depressing one because it felt "right."  His criticism of it told me I was on the mark.  I may have lost out having it published, but now the book is out there, and I can still shop it around to traditional publishers while maintaining all the rights to it.  Win win?  Yes.  All things considered, though, I kind of doubt my book is more offensive or depressing than something called The Big Rape.  It almost has to be, right?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Excerpt From My Nothing Men Novel

Here's an excerpt from Nothing Men, which is coming soon to the Kindle.  I may post more later, but here is a tease.



“When my momma found out she was pregnant with me, the whole village was happy. They all hoped I would be a girl because there hadn’t been a girl born here in a long time. The last one who was left with her momma when she was only eight. That was years before I came around.” She suppressed a belch.

“Okay,” Amanda said. She didn’t know what this had to do with Charles’ name, though.

 “Like I said, everyone wanted a girl ... everyone but my daddy. He wanted a boy so he could do man
things with him. Teach him trades and all that. He was a carpenter and did butchering and taxidermy stuff, too. From what my momma told me, he was the only one in Valley Bottom who wanted a boy.”

 “That’s kinda weird. Shouldn’t people just have been happy because your mom was pregnant?”

 Charles seemed surprised by Amanda’s comment. “No. It ain’t like that.”

 “Okay, so your dad wanted a boy and named you Charles. That’s not that sad.”

 Charles leaned back on the table. “You wanna hear the story, or you wanna make up your own?”

Charles stood up and began to pace. “When I was born, my daddy was devastated, but everyone else was thrilled. My mom, to make my daddy feel better, let him name me Charles.”

“Did anyone else care about that?”

 “No. Everyone was just glad I had a pussy.”

 Amanda never heard it put that way before, but she prodded her new friend to continue.

 “My dad started drinkin’ more and takin’ more pills ‘cause he was depressed. My mom said it was meth, but I never knew. I just knew he never seemed quite right. Momma Rose told me later that he was brain damaged to begin with. My daddy was a retard, but people still brought him their animals to work on.”
“He was a vet, too?” Amanda asked.

“Not like a real one who went to school, but he could do things. Fix them and stuff. Sometimes he couldn’t, and they died. I’d help him ... once I got old enough to hand him the tools. I think I was about four. I remember helpin’ him with Mr. Ash.”

Amanda shuddered. She couldn’t imagine helping her father operate on animals.
“When I was five -- and this I remember -- old Mrs. Quinn brought her dog in to be fixed. It was humping everything ... even a cat, which I found funny. My mom wasn’t home, so my daddy asked me to help him with the tools.”
“You saw a dog get fixed?” Amanda asked. She felt a little sick. She wasn’t sure what “fixed” was when it came to a dog, but she imagined it had something to do with its balls and maybe a sharp pair of scissors or something.
“I seen a lot more than that, doll girl. It was no biggie.”

“It’s gross, though.”

“No. Anyway, my daddy put the dog on the work table and knocked it out with some drugs he had in a needle. And the last thing I can remember is him turning to me and sticking me with the same needle.” She pointed to the side of her neck. “Right here.”

“What the fuck?” Amanda exclaimed. “Your dad drugged you? Why?”

Monday, September 5, 2011

We Are ... The Mentally Superior, And We Are Coming For You

It was the 1973.  Pennsylvania had yet to deal with Three Mile Island, Budd Dwyer or the Philadelphia police torching a city block to get some black people out of town.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education, perhaps anticipating such disasters, published a booklet titled A Guide for Parents ... Mentally Gifted Children and Youth.  In the mid 1970s my parents received this booklet.  I was the Mentally Gifted Children and Youth.  To be more exact ... I was a mentally gifted child.

The booklet itself seems to take its cue from a lot of what made Nazi Germany so memorable.  That would be a false sense of superiority and a strange version of eugenics.  Patriotism is sprinkled throughout, too, such as in the Foreword.  "In our democracy, we have an obligation to assure that every child has the opportunity to develop to the utmost of his abilities and to encourage him to do so."  (It's always a "him.")

Chapter 1 answers the burning question: Who are the Mentally Gifted?  I was apparently one of the lads whose "outstanding intellectual and/or creative ability" is in the "top 3 percent of the nation's school-age population."  It then proceeds to list two generalizations about us mutant children.  "Mentally gifted children do not follow a uniform pattern in any delineation of their individual nature, interests and needs."  And, "The typical gifted child is likely to be superior in almost all measurable human traits.  (There are exceptions, of course, but we are describing here a statistical majority of those classified as gifted.)"  I am not making this up.  I was apparently superior in all measurable traits.  All I can say is I'm glad this was in a time before every kid was medicated to the point immobility.

The booklet then discusses the needs of the gifted.  According to the PA Department of Education, if I wasn't given the opportunity for exploration and experience, I would become bored and develop anti-social attitudes and behaviors.  Looks like someone was asleep at the wheel in my school.  Luckily, my mental superiority meant that I targeted all the right people with my anti-social behavior.  Just ask the staff of Pocono Mt. Senior High.

One of the things that was hoped to be achieved with us was that we would, by adolescence, be preparing for marriage and family life.  Yeah.  Seriously.  Apparently, adolescence is particularly tough on the gifted because we reached that stage long before we are teens.  "He will probably experience a sense of isolation," it reads.  "He may have a greater problem developing appropriate sex roles and relationships.  He may abandon intellectual activities which are not accepted by the group in favor of more ordinary pursuits.  As an alternative, he may persist in being different and sever the lines of social communication."  Those who know me know are nodding their heads in agreement.  Guess what?  I don't need you people!  I'm Mentally Superior!

The booklet lists many activities that are to be of interest to the gifted child.  All the usual suspects are on there, like the Camera Club.  I imagine that is like the sexting of today ... or not.  It then ends on a special note under the chapter "Due Process: Right to Education for the Gifted."  It lists some regulations and states, "These regulations extend the right to education and the right to due process to all gifted and talented school-age persons..."  No need to bore you anymore than I already have, but let's just say I probably went through more evaluations then were necessary in school.

To say this booklet is creepy is an understatement.  I remember being pulled out of the First or Second grade to answer a bunch of questions.  I recall telling the woman interviewing me all about my theories on the Loch Ness Monster.  The next thing I knew my parents were discussing my education at the dinner table and telling me I was going into a class for the "smart kids."  We had access to computers before the other kids did, and we got to go to special events and museums that other kids weren't privy to.  All of this to ensure I married right and didn't blow up banks.  Did it work?  Yes and no.  The one thing it taught me to do was question authority, which is probably the most beneficial thing anyone can do.  While the other kids blindly listened to teachers in Third and Fourth grade, I was challenging them ... in a respectful way.  Later I became a lot less respectful as the teachers became a lot more authoritarian.

I don't think schools give out indoctrination booklets like this anymore.  They've gotten smarter.  I'm glad my parents kept my copy, though.  It explains a lot of my early schooling.

Letters From George 10

Another short one from the master of revenge, George Hayduke.  (Hey, when you're busy ruining people's lives for their indiscretions you don't always have time to write.)  The prank call tapes he is referring to is what would later become known as the Jerky Boys.  They weren't always called that, and they went by a couple different names.  I had sent him some copies of what I had.

Hi Doug,

Hey .. the prank call tapes are hilarious!  They made me laugh all over the place.  Great stuff.  Do you know this guy Mushacia?  Who is he?  My God, it/he is hilarious!!


There are a lot of people who lament the art of physically writing letters.  They say e-mails are too short and lack personality.  This letter from the author proves that just because one took the time to write a letter by hand doesn't mean it was going to be lengthy and deep.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Letters from George 9

And yet another letter from master of mayhem, sultan of sweet revenge, corporal of chaos, George Hayduke.  The one and only Bad Day Motherfucker.  This letter is short and sweet, and thanks me for sharing a story with him.

Hi Doug,

Hey, you're one creative, funny guy.  I loved your biker/buddy scam.  You can be sure that this one will be in a future book.  What penname do you want me to use for credit ... yours ... or a funny name?  You tell me.

And, yes, of course, I'd love to hear from you if you have other, funny stuff to share ... always.

Thanks again.

Cheers, George Hayduke

Yes, I did send him a anecdote about me fucking with a biker I worked with at the time.  Yes, the biker got revenge, but not on me.  Well, a little on me, but that was nothing more than screwing some company property I was using.  The other guy in on the prank didn't fare so well, and the biker's revenge consisted of flattening all four of the guy's car tires.  The only reason I can think that he did that to him and not me was he knew I was the brains behind the prank (which I admitted to once he went ballistic) and he thought if I got him that good he would pretty much have to kill me to make things even and he wasn't ready to go that route.

Ahh, the good ol' days.  Revenge was sweet and the howls of anger even sweeter.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Letters From George 9

As revenge has been on mind quite a bit as of late, I thought it was time to visit some more of the correspondence between one of the revenge masters, George Hayduke, and myself.  This letter came prior to the publication of my interview with the author, an all around good guy and a bit of a maniac.  Enjoy.

Hi Doug,

My friend, you get great fliers, you really do.  Anyway, it was [sic] doing the interview with you.  As I said, sorry I couldn't drop you a note, but I had your letter with me and just decided to call you while I was enroute home.  I sure hope the interview was useful to you.

Thanks again for the attention and the kind comments ... be glad to see what you did with your interview of me.  [At this point in the typewritten letter he drew an arrow in ink and wrote "as in send me a copy of whatever."]  And, you did a grand job.  I have had some truly silly clusterfucks from some self-styled professionals.

Take care ...

Cheers, George.

I've been told by more than one person that I conduct some great interviews.  I've interviewed everyone from various bands, to dominatrixes, to zoophiles, to flat tax proponents, to actors, to strippers.  They've all been pretty fascinating.  Hayduke was one of the more fun ones just because of our correspondence prior to the interview.  I had read almost all his books by the time I chatted with him, and if you've read any of them (like Righteous Revenge), you know how interesting an interview with him could be.  Hell, I could of done an entire interview on just his friends.

More letters later.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Death of the Eureka, CA Borders (a.k.a. A Cruel Story)

By now you've heard the news.  Borders, that behemoth of a bookstore (sorry, superstore), is shutting its doors.  Gone will be the expensive CDs and overpriced coffee.  I say that with some satisfaction, but also some lamenting, as well.

It was bound to happen.  Borders bit off more than it could chew.  It became the 496 pound man that couldn't sustain himself anymore.  DVDs, CDs, coffee -- it strayed from selling books and went with an eReader nobody wanted.  When the first wave of closures hit, our Borders in Eureka, CA was saved, much to the relief of the Bayshore Mall where it is located.  Now, however, nothing can save it, and the vultures are circling, waiting for those 60% off signs to go up.

As much as I dislike large corporations, Borders gave our area the best selection of books, and acted as a feeder store to the local independent bookstores (including the ones that wouldn't give me a job when I needed it, which is why I tend to spend my money elsewhere).  It had all the other stores combined beat when it came to selection and price.  And books bought at Borders often ended up at our local used bookstores, a void that will be hard to fill now.  (Hell, Borders even carried my book, something the local independents didn't do.  The store bought a good deal of copies, too, with hopes I'd do an autograph signing, which I was never going to do.)

If any store came close to competing, it was Arcata's Northtown Books.  A small, eclectic bookstore that rubbed me the wrong way when I tried to get a copy of Meat is Murder.

Years ago I wanted that book, and I was doing ninety percent of my purchasing from Northtown Books.  It was one of the few reasons to actually go to Arcata, truth be told.  I had the place do special orders for me in the past, so when I called and found out the store didn't have the book in stock, I asked if it was something that could be ordered.

After much searching on the computer I was told that it could be ordered from overseas.  Northtown Books had done that for me in the past, so I requested that again and was told "no."  It was a "hassle."  I offered to pay shipping (something I didn't have to do before).  Again, I was turned down.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the clerk told me to "try the Internet."

So I did and got it at Powell's.

(A friend suggested, without knowing the store, that it was the subject matter that caused the problem.  This seems unlikely as I had ordered things of a similar nature previously, including Killing for Culture, which is a great examination of snuff films.)

I've done very little buying at Northtown Books ever since.  Now with Borders going away, that may change ... though I doubt it.  Amazon is easier, and nobody asks me for change when I'm adding stuff to my wish list.  I don't have to worry about parking, and nor do I have to have my ears assaulted with whatever New Age drivel is being played.  The closing of the superstore (not so super now) will affect me, but not as much as those who will be out of a job, and for those who lack computer access.  I'm not even sure that the local independents will get a lot more business from this, as was indicated on KIEM (our local NBC affiliate) this evening.

A few people were interviewed about the closing, and all expressed barely coherent dismay.  One person mentioned going to the local independents, but another said something I think will be what the majority of people do.  She said she would just go to Target(!), of all places, for her book fix.  Target is great if you want a recent bestseller, which some people still do, but as far as a backlist goes or for anything off the beaten path -- forget it!  Try finding Human Oddities there.  Better yet, try to get Target to order it.  And then there is Costco, another book pimp specializing in only the most mainstream of the mainstream.  Borders' business is going to be migrating to these two places.

People can jump for joy whenever a big box retailer chokes out its last breath.  This is no Wal-Mart closing, or Sam's catching on fire.  Borders, for all its Danielle Steel crap and Jelly Belly assortments, was still a haven for ideas, information and culture.  Yes, you could get the lastest insanity from Glenn Beck, (don't click on the link -- it leads to homosexual porn reviews) but you could also find true crime from Britain or books on the study of death metal.  It had something for everyone ... who reads.  To see something that go away is bittersweet at best, and a blow to readers, publishers, authors and other book retailers at worst.  There is no real winner here.  At least not in Eureka.

And I'm still pretty damn unlikely to go into Arcata for my cannibal literature fix.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission, which I shall use to be all kinds of marvelous and wonderful tomes.  I promise, though, no Danielle Steel.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Kindle Debate Continues ...

I've been asking around on the Kindle even more than previously as of late.  Not because I want to buy a Kindle and am trying to justify it in some way.  Moreso because I want to learn more about what makes people buy the device (and other eReaders, but since I publish on the Kindle -- see sidebar -- that's all I really care about).  The answers haven't changed since last time.  People site that being able to change the font size, the ease of use (books seem pretty easy to use, too), the idea of saving shelf space, price of books and so on, are the chief reasons.  Oddly enough, nobody in this current group has mentioned environmental impacts.

I've been attempting to promote my Kindle works as I try to establish a bigger fan base before I publish the novel there.  I'm finding that the promotion that works the best is just simple word-of-mouth.  What is more surprising, however, is who is using the Kindle, and I have no idea on how to promote to them.

Of all the people I questioned, whom I would consider to be voracious readers, very few of them own a Kindle.  Yes, some of them do, but the majority of the people I questioned who owned the device were not heavy readers.  Why they own a Kindle is beyond me.  I think they may be tech-smitten.  Oddly enough, these are the people who make more purchases based on -- you guessed it -- word of mouth.

I imagine heavy readers already know what they want to read and most likely consult critics for new reading choices.  Readers who tend to only read a few books a year probably do more buying based on what their friends say is good.  As I try to earn enough money off this Kindle venture to get noticed and get rid of my day job, I can honestly say I don't care who is reading my stuff.  The other side of me, however, would rather it be heavy readers, as those are the people who will be able to better criticize my work and make me a better writer.  I don't want to fall into that Hollywood trap where the only demographics listened to are the ones who go to see every movie.  They love bigger explosions, so most of what we get are movies with bigger explosions.  If I listened to the majority, I'd be writing about teen vampires.  (I do actually have a teen romance story in mind, but it will be very inappropriate.)  I think the two short stories I have on Kindle now can appeal to both audiences, and I'm sure the manuscript that is coming will, too.  (The only problem is whether or not people will be able to finish it.  I had let a few people read a draft of it two years back and there was a handful who could not get very far as it bothered them too much.  They didn't even get to the wet stuff, and they were upset.  That could actually bode well, as that kind of word of mouth sells stories.)

Time will tell if this promotional work I'm doing pays off.  I don't think it will get me nearly as many readers as word of mouth, and I'm okay with that.  As long as people are reading ...

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission, but not from Amazon.  That company hates stupid California tax laws.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Abortion Wars

If you are ever interested in a history of women's reproductive struggles (and you should be), Abortion Wars: A Half Century of Struggle -- 1950-2000 is one of the finest books I've read on the subject.  And before the FTC comes down on me, no, I did not receive this book to review.  I bought it because I'm interested in the subject.

You would expect a book like this to be lighthearted and full of feel-good essays on the simplistic issue of abortion.  Of course, it's not.  Hell, the publisher is University of California Press.  When has that publisher ever put out an easy read?  Never that I can think of, so this isn't beach reading, and I doubt a movie will ever be made of it.  (Some colleges apparently use it as a textbook, though.)  It is, however, a fascinating look at fifty years of reproductive struggles in this country.  With nearly twenty different write-ups on the subject, there's bound to be something new here for the armchair scholar.  If you are anti-abortion, however, it is highly unlikely this book is going change your views on anything, as most anti-abortionists I've met already have their minds firmly made up, as do most pro-choice folks.  This book is written for the pro-choice people.  It's not preaching to the converted, however.  It is seeking to educate and demonstrate just how far we've gone, but yet are still covering the same ground.

These days the issue of abortion really only comes around when there's an election to be won.  At least that's the only time the mainstream media really focuses on it.  If you were to use that as your barometer, doctors are no longer being shot, clinics aren't being targeted, and the right to choose seems as safe as your right to cable television.  The reality is a whole different picture, however.  Delving into this shows exactly what can happen when you let your guard down.  It's a lesson those who are pro-choice need to remember.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Again, I did not get this to review.  And, if you click on a link, I may get a small commission.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Cautionary Tale Part Deuce

Back in 2009 I wrote about The Anarchist Cookbook.  You know about the book, I'm sure.  A guidebook, no matter how questionable, on how to make bombs, improvised weapons, drugs, etc..  Really hippie stuff, you know?  I wrote about my experience in trying to buy the damn thing many, many moons ago.  I'm a sucker for someone telling me I can't buy a book.  The first thing I want to do is march out and get it.  Hence, my copy of Rainbow Party.  Anyway ...

While looking at my stats for the week on this blog, I noticed two interesting things.  One: That 2009 posting is the most read post of the week.  Two:  I had more readers from Ireland this week than any other country, including the USA, which is the first time I can remember that happening.  Coincidence, or are Irish Republican Army supporters doing some random Google searches for inspiration?  I have no idea, but it made me think more about what this book represents.

First of all, anyone who thinks it ties in politically with anarchism has their signals crossed.  It's more about chaos and general distrust than anything else, but regardless, should books like this exist?  Should there be books out there that teach people how to make bombs, how to poison and cause other types of destruction?

Books, with few exceptions (and usually always religious-based) don't make people violent.  Violent people are drawn to certain books.  So are the curious.  Anyone reading The Anarchist Cookbook is not going to go from pacifist to bomb throwing nut case by the final page.  It just won't happen.  And while it can give someone on the fringes of sanity (however you define it) the blueprints for making some kind of weapon of destruction, that person doesn't really need it because we all have that capacity within us, and if there is one thing we are really good at it is finding out ways to hurt other people.

That doesn't answer the question, though.  It's easy to say previously banned books, such Alice in Wonderland, American Psycho and Uncle Tom's Cabin, should have never been banned.  They are stories, and we tend to agree stories don't hurt people.  (Well, governments don't tend to agree, and neither do certain groups, but independent thinkers tend to agree on that.)  But what about something that serves as a how-to manual for making bombs?  Should that be available?


That type of book is doing something that is dangerous.  It is giving its readers information.  Information, of any sort, is dangerous to the people who don't want you to have it.  This information could be related to making nerve gas or torture techniques used on "terrorists."  Once you suppress one type of information, it's very easy to suppress another.  It's easy to justify, and it's easy to do.

As far as I can tell, The Anarchist Cookbook was never "officially" banned by our government, though places did not sell it or make it otherwise available to the public (as I detailed in my original post).  Lots of websites say it was banned, but a quick Wikipedia check shows otherwise.  The author of the book, William Powell, wanted the book to be yanked from sale after he "matured," and eventually the publisher did drop it.  That had more to do with morals (and perhaps fear of legal action) than a government-guided ban.

Ideas and information exist help goals become accomplished, better society, encourage debate and so on.  Taking ideas and information out of circulation only ends up giving them more strength than what they would've had on their own and cause more people to seek them out.  It also demonstrates that the censor in power has little faith in their own ideals.  It's a dangerous game to play, but governments and groups continue to do it, stating they are trying to "protect" us.  If that doesn't send a chill down one's spine, perhaps you do need protecting.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sex! And Violence!

No, it's not a play on the Exploited song.  It is what I spent last night doing ... after completing the first chapter of my online driving test I have to take to keep my insurance rates from skyrocketing.

Flesh and Blood Compendium is the "best of the first 10 years" of Flesh and Blood magazine.  I'll let the book cover describe the wonders within.  "Sex & horror film reviews, articles & interviews ... the cult magazine that boldly strode into the dark heart of the exploitation film jungle."  I couldn't have said it better myself, and like most FAB Press books, it's huge and filled with wonderful photos.

I started reading it a few days ago.  It opens with a piece on the crap that is Scream by Stephen Thrower, who is always fun to read.  And while I started to read it, I really didn't get a chance to dive into it until late last night.  After finishing a few of the pieces (including a fascinating one on how Britain goes about legislating its adult videos) I found that I couldn't sleep.  I wasn't terrified of what I read (or even aroused -- thanks, Elizabeth Tessier).  I wanted to read more.  I wanted to see what was next.  Every essay was like opening a treasure chest of information.  Unfortunately, I had to sleep at some point, so it was with great reluctance that I put it down.  Damn you, editor Harvey Fenton.  Damn you.

I haven't finished it yet (I have quite a ways to go), so I can't officially recommend this tome, but ... if you are already familiar with Flesh and Blood, FAB Press, Harvey Fenton and the likes of Stephen Thrower and you haven't read this -- you know you need to.  You know you won't be disappointed.  (Conversely, some of the reviews I read on Amazon show nothing but disappointment.  These "critics" also didn't seem to know what they were reviewing, with one writer saying he thought this was a "best of" the magazine's first ten issues.  The cover, if one pays attention, tells the reader it is the best of the first ten years.  It was not a monthly magazine.  Obviously, the Amazon reviews should be taken with a grain of salt and given as little attention as these reviewers gave the book they "read.")

If this turns out to be a colossal bomb, I will of course revisit this, but I've never been disappointed with anything from FAB Press ... ever.  Even at its worst, it's still heads and breasts above most other publishers of film books.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not receive this to review.  I bought it, and you should, too.  If you click on a link, I may earn a commission.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hammer's House of Horror

If you are a fan of horror and grew up in the 1970s, you remember Hammer.  It was a film studio in England that made legendary horror films starring the likes of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and others.  The films were imaginative.  The posters moreso.

The Art of Hammer showcases some of the studios best posters, many of them from foreign countries, all in wonderful color.  Yeah, it is expensive, but it is worth every cent of it.

I received the book as a Secret Santa gift, which blew my mind.  My Amazon wish list was accessed, much to the person's horror I'm sure, and this seemed like the safest bet for the workplace.  (Can't blame my SS elf for that.)  I devoured the thing, savoring every film title and all the wonderful pieces.

Horror films aren't the only movies covered, either.  Some of Hammer's epics and comedies are also featured, though it is the horror posters that show the most imagination and are the most interesting to examine.  Books like this make me pity the reader who would download this for a Kindle.  You just don't get the scope of art in such a small space.  (This is an incredibly oversized hardcover.)  It needs to be seen in the flesh to understand the posters' hypnotic power.

I actually place this on my shelf with the art books instead of my film books, as it is less about the movies and more about the artistic side of film promotion.  It is a valuable resource when it comes to film, but make no mistake -- the draw here is the art and rarely-seen pieces.

Save for it if you must, but get this as soon as humanly possible.  There have been plenty of books written about the studio, but this gives you the perspective of the audience who saw these posters and made a decision whether or not to see the film being advertised.  These works were cutting edge for the time and make you long for the day when artistic choices meant more than demographics when it came to promoting a film.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this book as a gift, but not for review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.  Avoiding the horrors of Hammer is a danger to one's health.

Realizing the Impossible

As part of the Friends of AK Press program I received a copy of Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority, a book whose time had come.

Editors Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland have compiled interviews and essays with artists of all kinds involved in anti-authoritarian movements throughout the globe.  What follows is an in-depth and interesting look at the history of this type of art and where it is at today.  Printmaking, video, graffiti, puppet theatre and more is covered in its pages, along with plenty of great photographs.

It is easy for a book of this type to become nothing but a cheerleader for anti-authoritarian and anarchist art.  It's not.  In fact, one of the best pieces takes the activist films to task for be substandard pieces of work that fail to hold an audience simply because they don't do what is proven to work.  It is a critical and insightful piece that needs to be read by anyone involved in activist film.  This isn't the only piece that challenges the norm, either.  Throughout the book are people questioning the form, meaning and effect of the art they and others do.  That's what makes this a book well worth checking out for anyone interested in the arts, subversive or otherwise.

The end of the book is a series of essays examining one subject or another in dept.  Of note, there are two great pieces dealing with Haymarket and culture jamming.  Those two works alone make this worth its cover price.  Any serious student of culture will want to read these.  There will be plenty to argue about, but also plenty with which you will agree.

If the book has one fault it is that it is too short.  You know this has merely scratched the surface of what is out there.  It could've been twice its size and still run into the same problem, however.  What is needed is new volumes, and while I don't know if that is something AK Press is planning, I do hope someone does it as this type of art is important in its own right and needs to examined by those involved and those who are witnesses.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I received this book as part of the Friends of AK Press program.  It was not sent to me to review, but I did it anyway.  If you don't know what that is, go to the link.  Take that, FTC.  Also, clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kindle News

I've put another short story up for Kindle.  A Dead Friend is now available for under a buck!  Wot a bargain!  It is a fairly tame horror story from me, but my next piece should fix that.

The next thing I'm putting up on Kindle will be the cannibal manuscript.  I have had with a publisher for over a year, and the publisher has flaked ... big time.  So I am taking it back and putting it up on Kindle while I look for a traditional publisher. 

I have probably over a hundred short stories I can put up on Kindle (I may bundle some into a collection), and several novels.  It looks like this is the route I'm going to take. 

It will be a little while before the manuscript is up, as I have to do some reformatting, but I will announce it as always.  I'm hoping I can get the cover right, too, as I have the perfect photo I took a few years ago.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Clicking on the link will earn me a small commission, and give you a creepy short story should you decide to pay for it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For Heaven's Sake Catch Me Before I Kill More I Cannot Control Myself

There it was, on a desk in a neat stack: twenty oversized hardcover books, each marked at a tolerable $2.00.  Crimes and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia of Aberrant Behavior.  I got the set for half-price.

For a true crime junkie like myself, this set that delves into the likes of Jack the Ripper, zombies, serial killers, con men and the like was absolute porn.  Photos and drawings (many of them rare) galore, and a small font ensured that this provide hours of "entertainment." 

BPC Publishing Limited is the publisher, and the advisory editorial board includes the likes of Colin Wilson, H. Montgomery Hyde and Nigel Morland. 

I grabbed volume 20 off my shelf to get some information and turned to the section "Vice Breaker."  It opens with a full page photo of W. T.  Stead and this, "In staid Victorian London a double standard of morals existed.  Child prostitution was legal.  In changing the law, W. T. Stead suffered jail."  Throughout the book are crime scene photos (like the one above), photos of notes from Jack the Ripper, comparison photos of art forgeries, great photos of Maud Allen and the man who accused her of being the head of a "Cult of Clitoris," the man who was licensed to kill KGB members, Joseph Weil (the Yellow Kid) and more.  That's just in one volume!  There are 20 of these!  Amazing and unbelievable.

I talk to quite a few true crime fans who don't even know this set (which came out between 1973-1974) even exists.  I've never seen it in a store since, either, though it can be found online. 

Though it crams a lot in, and is not as in-depth as a single subject book would be, it still has a surprising amount of information, so you're bound to run into something you never knew about before.  Simply amazing.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dope, Guns and Politicians in the Streets

I read a lot of political books.  Two authors I particularly respect are Noam Chomsky and Hunter S. Thompson.  You could not get two further from each other in the humanity spectrum.  Chomsky is an intellectual, one whom requires a dictionary on hand to decipher.  Thompson is a pill-popping, gun-toting motherfucker who pursues politicians like sharks.  Given the nature of politics, pill-popping and firearms seems to be the only sensible way to deal with the sausage makers.

There is perhaps no better book on the election process than Fear and Loathing: On the Campaing Trail '72.  Thompson on the 1972 presidential campaign is a Thompson unleashed.  You've got Hart, Carter, Nixon, and McGovern.  You've got Thompson attacking not only the process and the hacks, but also the mainstream media.  And you've got the introduction of the mojo wire.  After reading this, it's no wonder that politics became a "cool" thing for young journalists to cover, and while many would try to mimic Thompson, none could quite do it.

Thompson has been a big influence on my writing (though not always apparent).  And though this was not the first book of his that I read, it was the one that caused me to create a Thompson section on my bookshelf (I don't have everything he wrote, but I am working on it). 

Rolling Stone originally ran Thompson's pieces before they were compiled for the book, and for that the magazine deserves my respect.  (The magazine has since fallen from grace with me.)  I can think of few other magazines at the time that would have tried something like this, and fewer that would have had the patience to deal with the madman.  His pieces came in right down to the wire, and they were often just notes that had to be assembled into something resembling an article.  Brilliant.

Thompson is, of course, no longer with us.  His work lives on, though.  Hopefully it is still inspiring.  What politics really needs these days is a good dose of Thompson.  Imagine him covering the Tea Party.  Exactly.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link and purchasing something may earn me a small commission.  I did not receive Thompson's book to review.  I think that is apparent from what I wrote, but the FTC thinks everyone is a dumb as its members.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Killer Inside Me

I purchased Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me because of an unlikely reason.  That is what I told the clerk at the Paperback Booksmith, a bookstore I used to hang out at in the Poconos.  "There's a line about it in a Dead Milkmen song.  I figured I'd check it out."  So I bought it and read it.  The book has garnished a lot of praise, but it didn't blow me away.

If you haven't read it, the book is a quick bit of crime fiction concerning Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in a small Texas town.  He's got ... problems.  Written in the first person, Thompson's work puts you right into the mind of a man who thinks a bit differently than most people.  Yeah, he's a cop, but not all cops are like this one.

This was originally published in 1952.  Five years from then, Ed Gein's farmhouse of horrors with its preserved vaginas and human skin masks would be discovered.  That was shocking at the time.  The Killer Inside Me, while not real, was probably just as shocking to readers.  Thing is, though, Gein is still shocking.  Thompson's book is not.

We understand more about what motivates crime and criminals.  Killers, serial and not-so-serial, have written of their thoughts, feelings and deeds.  Thompson's work, while believable, becomes less effective because by now we have heard this story (or variations of it) from the mouths of those who have committed the crimes.  The real crimes.  Not the fictional ones.  The truth, as they say, is always stranger than fiction.

Thompson's work has been praised for being believable, which it is.  I would argue, however, that if you are writing a first person story from the mind of a criminal it better be believable or else you've failed.  Thompson was doing his job.  A job he may have done better than others, but his job nonetheless.  In 1952 that job probably caused quite a few people to shudder.  Today it's just part of the norm. 

I'm not trying to take the piss out of Thompson's book.  I think it holds up well enough, and it has earned its praise.  I just don't think it is nearly as effective as it was when first published, and that is due more to our society than it is due to Thompson's skills.  Thompson's work hasn't detached itself from society.  Society has become Thompson's work.  When Thompson wrote this, he was trying to understand a killer, and show his motivations in a way that made sense and were horrifying to a populace that didn't really understand these things.  Now we have a library full of books that do the exact same thing directly from the source, and specials on cable television to fill in the gaps.  If you are going to read this, you have to understand that idea.  If you want to feel like a reader circa 1952 did when picking this up, you have to forget what you already know.  You have to go in fresh, and I think that is just too hard to do now.

As far as noir goes, though, it sets the bar high ... and it sure as hell works.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Let's call the FTC a cocksucker.  See if its read The Killer Inside Me. If you click on a link and purchase something, I may get a small commission because they are affiliate links.  If you want a good look at real criminals, look at the FTC.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cannibals, Serial Killers and Skin Suits

Silence of the Lambs.  If you haven't seen the movie, there's a good chance you read the book.  (Hopefully you read Red Dragon, as well.  It was better.)  When the film, starring a ham-fisted Anthony Hopkins, came out, it was the film to see, and a large number of people could be found reading the book.

I'm all for people reading, and I don't care what gets them to do that.  I don't blame people for wanting to read the source material after or before seeing the film, either.  The book, as is usually the case, was far better than the movie.

I actually ended up reading the book after seeing the movie.  It just worked out that way.  Of course, when people saw me reading it, they asked if I saw the film, as if I had no idea of its existence.  Inevitably, I was almost always told that they liked the film better!

I had a friend who felt this way, and when I asked her why, she told me it was because Hopkins brought Lecter to life in a way she didn't realize could be possible.  (I didn't mind him, though I thought he overacted just a bit.)  She felt that Harris could've done more with the character, and I think other people thought so, too.  Hence, Hannibal.

Hannibal was atrocious.  I think Harris set out to write something so nasty it couldn't possibly be translated to film correctly, and he succeeded.  Mission accomplished.  In fact, I think that book is a big "fuck you" to all those people who liked the Silence of the Lambs film more than the book.  Since "fans" demanded more, he gave them what they deserved.  More of everything.  Stuff that was so over-the-top that it really seems like Harris either wrote it under protest or lost his damn mind.  The first two books were tight thrillers with Lecter being important, but in a cage.  In Hannibal he was loose, and in being so, he lost all ability to scare.

And the ending was totally unbelievable.  If you don't remember it, I won't remind you.  Ridiculous.

I really believe, though I have no proof, that the movie franchise helped destroy the books.  Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs stand proudly on their own.  There are better books dealing with the same subject matter, but these two are still good reads.  What came after, though, was a complete mess and a slap in the face to those who liked the first two books.  Those two following books (Hannibal Rising was the other one, and there was no way I was going to read that after Hannibal) were created solely because The Silence of the Lambs film did well.  There was no other reason for them to exist.  The story had been told, and it ended quite nicely.  All Harris did was destroy a good character to please people who read maybe three books a year.

The chances of me ever reading another Thomas Harris book?  Zero.

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